Sunday, September 28, 2014

The return of "30 Days to Freedom'" a.k.a. a month-long meditation challenge for October? Let's do this.

You've heard me say it before: stress management is everything. Or it's nearly everything, anyway. Without properly handling your stress -- and note that I say "handling," not "eliminating" -- sleep and even digestion get wrecked. And when sleep and digestion are wrecked, exercise often becomes just another negative stress. On the flip side, get the whole deal -- stress management, sleep, food and exercise -- in order, and life suddenly seems a couple (maybe many more) levels of amazing.

Put differently, yeah, I can tell you to sleep like a teenager, eat clean food and exercise smart, and it won't mean a thing if you are a walking ball of tension most days. Or if you do that dreaded 3 a.m. worry wakeup and then can't get back to sleep.

So here's the deal. We've done this before. and that link and this one have even more links in them which explain the whole thing (and will even take you all the way back to answering baby-steps questions like, "Just how the f#%^ am I supposed to meditate? I hate it! My mind is too busy!").

But the basics are this: at least ten minutes every day for the month of October, sit down in a quiet place, and meditate. If you've done this before, or if you're just feeling like going the extra mile, make it 20 minutes, or commit to two sessions a day. Whatever works. This isn't a competition. Me? I am headed for a lot of two-a-days, but I also know that my schedule won't allow me to fit in two meditation sessions every single day. So I'll do the best I can. Again, it's not a competition.

It is, however, an opportunity for you to talk about the experience, whether it's on the Paleo Drummer Facebook page, here in the comments, or via a guest blog post here -- which a few people have done in past meditation challenges.

So, starting Wednesday October 1 (or, better yet, just start now), let's sit down, shut up and fix our heads, by managing stressed through meditation. It really is the path to a better everything. Are you in?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review: Bob Mould Band live in Philly at the TLA, September 5, 2014

Bob Mould walked onstage last night with his bandmates Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster, grinned a little, leaned back and launched headlong into "Flip Your Wig" followed by "Hate Paper Doll." I kind of lost my shit a little.

Witnessing the recent rock and roll rejuvenation of Bob Mould has been nothing short of mindblowing.

The man is 53 years old, and he's bouncing around the stage like the same guy I saw with Hüsker Dü at an ironically-named ("The Opera House") warehouse-y dump in Philly in May 1985. And here's the thing: his current band may just be his best ever.

I'll fess up and admit that while I am a huge fan of Hüsker Dü, Sugar and Bob's early solo career, he lost me a little post-Sugar. I saw the Hüskers three times, Sugar once, and countless solo acoustic/electric shows into the early 2000s. But the post-Sugar solo albums were missing something to my ears. Yeah, they all (OK, I'm not counting his foray into electronica) had good songs, but their overall impact was just missing that thing-- we'll call it urgency -- that characterized everything the man ever touched prior to 1995 or so. Moreover, those solo shows? Yeah, I loved watching him tear into the classics, but, no matter how hard he ranted and raved and beat the living bejeezus out of his long-suffering guitars, he was all by himself up there; what he really needed was a band (maaaaaan).

In 2012, he finally got that band, courtesy of Narducy and Wurster. You may recognize them as the current live-show rhythm section of Superchunk, but before Wurster recruited Narducy for that gig, they had both signed on with Mould for Bob's Silver Age album.

To give you some idea of the seismic shift that Silver Age was, imagine if the Rolling Stones released Goats Head Soup now. Not in 1973 when it was a solid, but slightly flawed record. But right fucking now. Heads would explode all over the world. That's what Silver Age was like. It followed a collection of solo records that all had their highlights, but the distortion-drenched atavisms of SA were leaps and bounds beyond their immediate predecessors. It was right back to the glory days. This was a record that reeked of a Hüskers/Sugar hybrid. Dig this, for example:

In that song, and on the rest of that album, Mould is feeding off the energy of his new bandmates, and they, unsurprisingly are returning the awe and wonder of playing music with Bob Fucking Mould and revving things up a little more. It's a joyous/cathartic romp through power chords, pounding drums, vocal harmonies and urgent basslines. This year saw the same band release Beauty and Ruin. And the rampage continues:

And the live show that results? It's.... I'm not sure "fucking spectacular" begins to convey it. As I mentioned, they blasted through a couple Hüsker Dü songs to start. The set** that followed never let up. A large portion of Beauty and Ruin was played, some of Silver Age and a heaping serving of Hüsker Dü and Sugar songs. Hell, Bob even "rocked up" one ("Sinners and Their Repentances") from his first solo album, Workbook, to great effect.

Highlights? The entire show, start to finish. Really.

But if you make me pick a few, after the "Flip" intro, I'd say that "The Descent" and "Tomorrow Morning" were solo-album songs that were particularly crushing in their intensity. "Changes" had harmonies courtesy of Narducy that made even grumpy-looking Bob smile. "Hoover Dam" was, somehow, even better than the Sugar version, which I previously regarded as a near-perfect rendition. "Something I Learned Today" and "In a Free Land" made me wonder just how the hell Wurster keeps going at that intensity for an entire show.  And "Chartered Trips".... How do you make "Chartered Trips" into an even more perfect blast of everything ever? Add a coda with pounding drums and slashing chords. The set-closer that followed "Chartered Trips" was "Fix It" and, as much as I love that song, it barely registered with me after the roar that preceded it.

My mind is duly blown, gentlemen. I am back on board and will see this band every fucking time I get the chance.

(Next time in Philly, how about "Real World" with all of its glorious kerrang? That would up the ante even more, if that's even possible.)


Flip Your Wig
Hate Paper Doll
Star Machine
The Descent
Little Glass Pill
I Don't Know You Anymore
Sinners And Their Repentances
Kid With Crooked Face
Nemeses Are Laughing
The War
Hardly Getting Over It
Keep Believing
Come Around
Hoover Dam
Tomorrow Morning
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Hey Mr. Grey
Chartered Trips
Fix It
In A Free Land
something I Learned Today
Makes No Sense At All
Love Is All Around

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Food, barbells and thoughts on how your social class may play into what you do

A funny thing happened over in the much-wealthier town.

My older son (age 23) was routinely getting together with a friend [we'll call him Bob... not his name] to work out while both of them were off from school this summer. Sometimes they'd lift at my house, sometimes at Bob's parents' house. Sometimes they'd do sprints at the track, and maybe even work a kettlebell or a sled-drag into the day's effort. Less often they'd go for a run.

It didn't take long.

"You guys are back here lifting today? I thought you were going to Bob's house."

I was glad to see my son, but surprised.

"Yeah...." he replied. "It seems like we have a problem over there. It's not a problem if we use Bob's dad's rower in his driveway, and it's not a problem if we take our shirts off. Oh, it's also not a problem if we run all around town with our shirts off. So it's not an exhibitionist/ostentatious thing."

"So, what's...." I interrupted myself as I realized the deal. "No way! Let me guess: Bob's parents think weightlifting is unseemly and a little too, oh, pedestrian and blue-collar, and so they are good with everything until the barbell comes out? Then the neighbors might notice."

"It would seem so...."

"So there are people all over that town running and cycling. Hell, even Bob's dad uses his rower in the driveway. And this is no problem. But you've done something far worse, apparently. You've brought the lower-class sports to the properties of the rich."

"Yeah, apparently."

And then I read this article. It's an eye-opener called What Your Workout Says About Your Social Class.

And then I thought a little more about my own life. Outside of CrossFit, how do the well-educated people that I professionally interact with exercise? There are runners -- a lot of runners. Some triathletes. Some cyclists. There's a lot of long-distance cardio going on. There is, conversely, very little weightlifting going on among those folks, and even less if you confine the term "weightlifting" to mean "something full-body involving a barbell, not just isolation machines at a gym."

Then toss something else into the mix: low-fat dogma. You may have run across this article recently as well. The bottom line of it is an NIH study that showed low-fat eating regimens failing miserably next to low-carb/high-fat/no-caloric-restriction ones. It struck a nerve, not because I was surprised -- hell, it's like an ad for paleo/primal -- but because I wonder how it's going to play with the more upper-crust folks.

My own completely unscientific study of the high-income/non-weightlifting/heavy-cardio exercise crowd has most of them following a path of some sort of low-fat awfulness in their food. Usually there is a "diet," often accompanied with caloric restriction, guilt and a lot of time watching numbers on the scale. There is a tremendous amount of self-deprivation in much of it as well.

Yes, CrossFit is changing the paradigm a bit. It seems that if we can get the prep-schoolers into a CF box, and put a barbell in their hands, we often can get them off of skim milk, vegetarianism and soy burgers at the same time. But it's more of a struggle. Again, my own unscientific study of CrossFitters shows that the average cop/firefighter/tradesperson is more likely to quickly embrace (or, at least, not fight about) both the food and exercise component of a primal lifestyle than the better-educated, who will still be secretly doing long runs that they don't really like** -- but think are the "real" way to be fit -- and eating low-fat yogurt and "heart healthy whole grains" [sic].

And yeah, I'm a lawyer, former distance runner and former near-vegetarian who ate whole grains like it was his job and devoured more soy burgers than real ones as of just a few years ago. I never picked up a barbell until I was 46 years old. So don't see this piece as some sort of class-war Molotov cocktail tossed over the well-educated-guy's fence. I am one of those well-educated guys who wasn't doing any of this stuff optimally as of just a few years back. But because of that, I also see a little more closely what is going on with my peers in that regard. They are, on the whole, missing the bus on both diet and exercise. Part of it is from misinformation. But quite often there's something else going on there as well.

**This is in contrast to some distance runners that I know who actually enjoy it. More power to them. People should do things that make them happy. I just hate to see someone doing something he or she hates, grinning and bearing it for "health" reasons.